ROCK ISLAND – State Senator Mike Halpin advanced a measure to create a Community-Based Corrections Task Force that would research the benefits of specialty courts, like drug court and detention alternatives, and the creation of a community-based correctional facility.

“In Springfield, there are many issues that need expert review and recommendations,” said Halpin (D-Rock Island). “This task force brings on-the-ground expertise as to how folks with mental illness or addiction interact with our criminal justice system so we can achieve better outcomes for these individuals while keeping our communities safe.”

The goal of Halpin’s measure is to discuss the benefits of community-based correctional facilities and specialty courts in Illinois. Community-based correctional centers are alternatives to prison that provide a different way for individuals who are convicted of crimes to be rehabilitated back into society without having to be incarcerated. One alternative to traditional corrections is the use of specialty courts, also known as problem-solving courts. These courts are designed to lead people out of a cycle with the justice system and into treatment programs.

The idea for this legislation was brought to Halpin from a Rock Island probation officer. Great ideas for legislation often come from community members because they have a unique understanding of a specific issue through lived experiences.

"The mental health and substance abuse crisis is at an all-time high with around 80% of our current criminal offenders dealing with untreated substance abuse and mental health problems,” said a Rock Island Probation Officer Andy Boswell. “The Initiative seeks to greatly expand treatment based solutions and divert individuals from incarceration. We need to salvage lost potential, save taxpayer money and pave a way for justice-involved individuals to recover so we can succeed in making our communities a better place for all our citizens. We can achieve this through the courts establishing stronger connections with our community partners in mental health, substance treatment, housing and employment. The blueprint is there for success, we just need to put everything into place."

Senate Bill 3353 passed the Senate Special Committee on Criminal Law and Public Safety on Wednesday and awaits a vote before the full Senate.